University of Melbourne Student Union

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UMSU logo
Full name University of Melbourne Student Union
Founded 1884
Affiliation National Union of Students
Key people

Yan Zhuang, President

Yasmine Luu, General Secretary
Office location University of Melbourne

The student union is one of two student organisations at the University of Melbourne, Australia. The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU), incorporated as University of Melbourne Student Union, Inc. (UMSUi) provides representation for students. There is a separate company, wholly owned by the University; Melbourne University Student Union Limited (MUSUL), which provides services to the two student organisations - UMSU and the Graduate Student Association (GSA). MUSUL is a company limited by guarantee and governed by a board of directors which comprises only three students. It is not a student organisation. UMSU was incorporated on 17 November 2005, following approval by the Council of the University of Melbourne in October of that year. Its first elections were held in October 2005 under the transitional clauses of the constitution.


Particularly noteworthy is Union House Theatre, out of which a large number of notable Australian celebrities have emerged, such as Cate Blanchett, Barry Humphries and Malcolm Livingstone; the Union Band Comp, which has kick-started the careers of several well-known Australian bands; and an annual comedy revue which produced the Working Dog crew.


Farrago is the official newspaper of the University of Melbourne Student Union. The name is included in the motto Quidquid agunt homines nostri farrago libelli est — whatever men do forms the motley subject of our page.

The newspaper was founded by Brian Fitzpatrick in 1925. Noteworthy editors in the past have included E W (Bill) Tipping, Geoffrey Blainey, Amira Gust, Claude Forrell, Ian Robinson, Morag Fraser, Garrie Hutchinson, Ross McPherson, Lindsay Tanner, Peter Russo, Louise Carbines, Jim Brumby, Pete Steedman, Arnold Zable, Kate Legge, Nicola Gobbo, Cathy Bale, and Christos Tsiolkas in 1988.


Union House in the Parkville Campus

The student union had been funded by compulsory Amenities and Services Fees since 1911. The introduction of VSU saw a significant loss of fudning for the union, as the ASF was no longer charged from 1 July 2006. On 11 October 2011 the SSAF[1] was introduced which led to a large increase in funding to the Union, though not as high as in the pre-VSU era. In 2014 the Union was allocated just under $4.5 Million by the University, or 34% of the total SSAF revenue collected.[2]

The union funds a range of services including: the Rowden White Library; the Student Union Advocacy and Legal Service; the campus information centre; the Union House Theater, Clubs and Societies, Farrago, Student Representation and common areas in Union House. This allocation also covers staff salaries, and office bearer honorariums. UMSU additionally collects a small amount of revenue from event ticket sales, AV and BBQ hire, sponsorship and other sources which enables it to fund political activities including political student clubs and the often controversial affiliation fees to the NUS.


The University of Melbourne Union was founded in 1884 to promote the common interests of students and assist in social interactions between its members. The Melbourne University Students’ Representative Council was formed as an independent unincorporated association at a special general meeting called by the Sports Union Council on 19 September 1907.

The Associations Incorporation Act, 1981, allowed incorporation of student bodies, among others. The Students’ Association in 1987 as the Melbourne College of Advanced Education Students’ Association-Carlton Incorporated, and the Students’ Representative Council was incorporated in 1988 as Melbourne University Students’ Representative Council Incorporated. On 13 October 1988 the two merged to form Melbourne University Student Union Incorporated (MUSUi).

Voluntary liquidation[edit]

From 2002, some of the union's unprofitable commercial services were terminated, including U-Bar, and a property deal was entered into with Optima Property Development Group. A draft report from auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers warned in June 2003 that this could potentially create obligations beyond MUSUi's capacity to pay.[3][4] The deal was for MUSUi to sublease student apartments to international students from the Optima Group. It did not proceed.

On 30 September 2003, Vice-Chancellor Alan Gilbert informed MUSUi that the University was terminating the 2003 Funding Agreement, effectively stripping it of any future money, citing "evidence of breaches by MUSUI of its obligations under the Agreement", (the agreement being "providing facilities, services or activities of direct benefit to students at the institution"). He also cited a "serious breakdown in governance, financial management and accountability structures within MUSU".

On 6 February 2004, the Union was placed into liquidation by the Supreme Court of Victoria after a vote by the Student Union Executive. MUSU's liquidator, Dean Royston McVeigh, said in his provisional liquidator's report, that the Union owed debts of $4.3 million (mainly to the University of Melbourne) but only had assets of $3.5 million. McVeigh acknowledged that these "debts" were the result of creative accounting by the University, with the University ultimately relinquishing any claim to such "debts". As a result, it was no longer student-controlled (a prerequisite for affiliation to NUS) and was in any case unable to pay affiliation fees. A new constitution was approved.

Master Ewart Evans, who was presiding over the hearings of the liquidators' examination until his retirement in 2005, was critical of the "somewhat precipitative" timing of civil court proceedings, which McVeigh quickly settled out of court after much adverse publicity about his own fees and expenses believed to total more than $8 million[5] prior to producing a Liquidator's Report and convening a meeting of creditors. The downfall of MUSU was satirised by the Union Players in the play Friday Night at the Union in 2004.

Recent political history[edit]

Students Protest Against Education Cuts. University of Melbourme Parkville, September 2013

Following the 2004 annual election, a coalition between the Liberal Club and the Labor right was defeated by a cooperative left, made up of National Labor Students (ALP Club), Socialist Alternative and a group of progressive students who are not involved in other politics called Activate. The positions won by the left groups were for an interim student representative committee established by the University to oversee student representation and advocacy until the incorporation of UMSU.

UMSU saw few changes in its power dynamic from 2005-07. In 2007 National Labor Students held the President, Secretary and Education (Academic) Offices. The makeup of the 2007 Student Council had no ALSF presence (due to the Liberal Student tickets withdrawing from the annual elections prior to the opening of the ballot). The 2007 UMSU budget, due to funding cuts caused by VSU, was reduced from just over $2m in 2006 to $1.23m in 2007. This resulted in reductions in funding for departments, particularly those which traditionally have been considered high, such as the Activities, Clubs and Societies and Media Departments.

In 2008, the National Labor Students and Grassroots tickets, running as StandUp! and Activate respectively, won most of the paid positions in the Student Union. Their tenure in 2009 was highlighted by difficulties in passing budgetary support towards the National Union of Students and Students for Palestine organizations.

2009 saw nearly all major elected positions won by a Labor Right-Liberal coalition called Synergy.[6] On Student Council, Synergy were elected to four positions (two Liberals and two Student Unity) and five positions were won by iUnion, a newly established ticket run by international students and former StandUp! office bearers.[7]

2012 saw the union criticised for the decision to not lay a $200 wreath at the ANZAC dawn service, with President Mark Kettle stating that "participating in the ANZAC Day service would be ‘glorifying war’".[8] There was also a publication in a major daily newspaper that student resources had been were used to support "a live and extreme sex show performed on campus for "sex education" purposes."[9]

2013 again saw the union criticised, when they passed a motion to unreservedly celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher,[10] resulting in media coverage from the Herald Sun and a large student backlash against the union over Facebook.[11]

On 23 March 2016, James Baker resigned as President following reports of inappropriate behaviour.[12] The position was filled by Indigenous Officer Tyson Holloway-Clarke after an unopposed election at a meeting of Students' Council in late April 2016.[13] Wunambi Connor was later appointed by the Indigenous Committee to the position of Indigenous Officer on 31 May 2016, joining Emily James in the position.[14]

Initial constitution[edit]

The Constitution of UMSU was drafted by a Student Representative Working Group, members of whom were elected in 2004 by electronic ballot; the University Secretary was appointed Returning Officer. The University was closely involved in the drafting process and provided free legal advice to the Working Group.[15]

These student Working Group members consisted of both undergraduate and post-graduate members, and the overall composition of the Working Group was factionally diverse, with the incumbent Student Unity/ALSF coalition being reduced to opposition status. Due to a large number of inquorate meetings, the Working Group instituted a drop-off rule.

The Working Group persisted until mid-2005, when the final draft of the Constitution was presented to the Council of the University.[16] In September 1052 out of 1240 students voted in favour of accepting the new constitution.[17]

The Constitution itself was largely based on the MUSU Constitution, with a number of innovations, including affirmative action provisions, pay-parity and strict accountability mechanisms curbing the powers of the President and Secretary in particular. It also created the Clubs & Societies Department (which in the past had been a part of the Activities Department) and the Indigenous Department.


UMSU has a number of paid officers, which include: the President; the General Secretary; Media Officers; Education (Academic Affairs) Officer; Education (Public Affairs) Officers; Activities Officers; Creative Arts Officers; Clubs and Societies Officers; Welfare Officer; Environment Officers; Indigenous Officers; Disabilities Officers; Queer Officers; Women's Officers, the Burnley Campus Coordinator, and the VCA Campus Coordinator.

Aside from the positions of President, General Secretary and the campus coordinators of Burnley and the VCA, all other offices can be shared between two people. The Media Office must be shared between three or four people.

UMSU has a pay parity provision in its constitution which stipulates that all full-time officers must be paid an equal wage and that all part-time officers be paid at a .6 fraction of the full-time rate of pay. The VCA Campus Coordinator and Burnley Campus Coordinator are paid at .5 fraction of the full-time rate of pay.

Current Factions[edit]

In 2016/17 the Students' Council, the peak body for the union, is made up of 21 student representatives from 6 factions [18]

Faction Leader Seats held 2016/17 Council
More! (Labor Right) Joshua Rose 7              
More! (More Activities!) Martin Dittmann 6            
Stand Up! (Labor Left) Adriana Mells 4        
Activate Alston Chu 1  
Independent Media Caleb Triscari 1  
The Biggest Blackest Ticket Tyson Holloway-Clarke 1  
Socialist Alternative Jade Eckhaus 1  

Currently, the offices of UMSU are held by members of four factions; More!, Activate, Independent Media and The Biggest Blackest Ticket. Majority of the offices are held by the More! ticket, which won all contested positions in the election held in 2016. The More! ticket is an amalgamation of the independent More Activities! group and the Labor Club, whose core values align with the ShortCons faction.

Notable associations[edit]

Several Members of Parliament were active within Melbourne University student life, including Sir Robert Menzies (former Australian Prime Minister), Gareth Evans (former Australian Foreign Minister), Lindsay Tanner (former Member for Melbourne), Michael Danby (Member for Melbourne Ports), and Sophie Mirabella (former Member for Indi).

Notable past presidents include:

Student societies[edit]

Over 200 student run clubs and societies are affiliated to UMSU,[19] which supports these organisations though financial grants and administrative assistance. The groups affiliated with UMSU range from the More Beer! club to the Quidditch team, but the largest and most notable of these societies are the faculty clubs (Arts' Students Society & Science Students' Society[20]) which run the largest balls and parties on campus.


  1. ^ "Student Services and Amenities Fee". 
  2. ^ "SSAF". University of Melbourne Student Union. UMSU Inc. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  3. ^ "Student union urged to abandon deal" - The Age 2003-07-09
  4. ^ "The deal that threatens to send a student union broke" - The Age 2003-07-20
  5. ^ "Landeryou threatened me, says liquidator" - The Age 2005-05-25
  6. ^ Crook, Andrew (15 September 2009). "Young Liberals find their campus saviours: the ALP". Crikey. Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  7. ^ Summers, Chris (16 September 2009). "Left and right? Just the beginning of the complexities of student politics". Crikey. Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Elected student working group will form a ‘constitutional convention’". UniNews Vol. 13, No. 4. University of Melbourne. 22 March – 5 April 2004. 
  16. ^ Christina Buckridge (22 August – 5 September 2005). "Council gives go-ahead to student body’s constitution". UniNews Vol. 14, No. 15. University of Melbourne. 
  17. ^ "Yes vote on new student body sets scene for elections". UniNews Vol. 14, No. 16. University of Melbourne. 5–19 September 2005. 
  18. ^ UMSU Students' Council Membership 
  19. ^ "UMSU Clubs and Societies". 
  20. ^ "The Science Students' Society (SSS)". Retrieved 2015-08-11. 

External links[edit]